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The value of free teachings

Over a period of many weeks, I have been trying to validate my
reasons for posting my setting essays to the enquiring minds of my
friends (?). I have given up on them, pity!

Everyone thinks I’m nuts giving away my trade-secrets. These folks
just don’t get the bigger picture! Furthermore, when they hear that
I’m not getting any money for this project. I am deeply perplexed in
trying to make them know how I feel towards this. To this date, over
110 Orchid folks have made themselves known in my helping them
worldwide, what better way to Orchid teach?

These so-called ‘friends of mine’ are almost angry at me, what is
wrong about helping others? I, in return are angry at them. If it
wasn’t for ‘us’ how would the next generation learn? The setting
trade would come to a screeching halt with no one helping others.

There are two skills involved here; the skill in writing in detail,
and the knowledge of setting. I am now submitting as many of my
essays as possible, regardless of these ‘naysayers’…still
perplexed!!! BTW, this is no ‘ego-trip’, but I’m just trying to help
anyone, anywhere, and as often as I can. …Gerry!

And it is greatly appreciated Gerry!!! I am a firm believer in
passing things forward. I have benefitted from your teaching, and
from others who have shared their knowledge, and I do my best to
pass what I now know on to others also. When you think of the
knowledge that has died because it did not get passed on, it is very

Kudos to everyone who does pass knowledge forward, and super kudos to
Orchid, Ganoksin, and Hanuman for giving us this incredible forum for
sharing knowledge with folks around the world! How else would we get
to “meet” so many wonderfully talented people from so many places???

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

Gerry I am so happy that people like you exist. I appreciate so much
what you are doing. I have learned so much from you. I just want to
say thank you.

Curtis Duhaney

telling all your secrets Thanks Gerry. It’s because of people like
yourself I can learn and grow. I am self taught and always
practicing, practicing, practicing and learning new things and then
reinventing the wheel on my own. When I learn a new technique from
an experienced metalsmith I am grateful. I am not looking to copy
their work or run off and with their amazing ideas and make them my
own. I am simply looking for the right way to do something. Thank
you again to all of you that write books, do videos, etc… Those
has been my main learning tools.

When I teach I give it my all and my students love it. Just taught a
class the last 4 days and the students commented that I am so
willing to share. Well, that is why we are here! When I teach
locally many times it is for free and I donate my time to just give
people awarness of the process. (This is for a local Artist Guild
and my other artists do the same thing for our community.)

I had a teacher once tell me ‘that is for the next class’ when I
asked him a very simple question. He meant I needed to pay him for
that by taking his next class. I do not do that. If I
know the answer and you are a willing student then here it is.

Funny though…after ten years and now teaching on the side for
maybe 3 or 4 years not many students acutally take their knowledge
and go to work. So, think about that.

'You can lead a horse to water… ’ Making jewelry takes patience,
persistence, and skill. Many people just don’t follow through and
end up doing something else. I have had people say ‘Aren’t you
worried about someone copying you?’ Well, go ahead… that only took
hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. So there is only a
select few people out there who are actually going to apply your
teaching into their life and their creations.

Teach Please. We need it. I need it. How am I going to get to where
I need to go if no one teaches me. I’ll be dead before I can learn
everything on my own without being taught. I have a long way to go!
Thanks To Everyone On Orchid for your awesome insight and advice.
Thanks Thanks Thanks! :slight_smile:

joy kruse

I have found people who worry about ‘trade secrets’ just don’t have
the design skills to make interesting jewellery. I will swap my
’trade secrets’ with my friends in the trade. Recently I gave a
friend a polish to try as it works very well. “Do you want some
money?” “Yeah in 10 years when you buy a new one buy me one too.”

My recent post on Opal setting 101 basically has it all. There is
only one thing I will not give away, because I was asked not to
repeat it. Still with my post you can professionally set opals, it
will just take you 10 minutes more than me. What does that matter
when setting a stone of value, nothing.

I agree with Gerald we need to pass on our knowledge. Yes I tell you
how to do it and in 5 years you will be as as fast as I am now. But
in 5 years I will still be faster/more skilled than I am today.

Looking at info on gem setting I found 2 courses in the states that
teach, LOL, gem setting. On one site’s photos the bezel was so bad
my teacher would have made me re-make the whole piece on the other
the prongs were not rounded. The trade will only survive if the
skilled share their knowledge, otherwise the unskilled will teach
people to make rubbish.

Long live Ganoksin and the knowledge we share

Gerry, I hope you will not give up your writing, I think it shows up
your love and commitment for your work and your generosity in
sharing your knowledge.

In this time were handwork get pushed away by mass production it is
great that you can inspire people to the fine art of producing

Beside of that you have a great writing skill,

Gerry, I wish there were more people like you and less narrow minded

Kindest regards


The sharing of knowledge that Orchid members have provided is
invaluable! Many of us, like Andrew Fine and myself, are either
unemployed, disabled or both. We can’t really afford formal
schooling for one reason or another. So we learn by surfing the
internet for help and by trial and error. To paraphrase an oft
repeated saying; Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach
a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Thank you Gerry and other Orchid members, for teaching me to fish. I
shall pay it forward as well.


I will take the liberty of giving the phrase “free teachings” a
meaning expanded to include a philosophy of not withholding valuable
lessons and skills learned. This was a philosophy I had to force
myself to adopt, and it was only facilitated by relinquishing the old
philosophy I had learned, that of clinging to knowledge fearfully,
worried that someone might take advantage of me if I were to share
it. The timing of this change in thinking was significant, for
reasons I won’t fully go into here, but it was at a time in my life
when I needed to let go of such clinging, fearful thinking in leaps
and bounds in order to attain/maintain sanity, so pulling my head out
about sharing knowledge went right in step with the larger path I was
and am walking. So begins a little bit of the story of how I got from
there to here.

My work history began in the very competitive area of Soutwestern
jewelry manufacuring in the Southwest U.S. in the early 1970’s in
what were effectively ‘Indian’-jewelry fabricating sweatshops. The
height of the boom, but still relatively low-tech, back when
everybody used asbestos pads for soldering and nobody used
ventilation. Some, or a lot, of the mentality I adopted was because
of the particular people running the places I worked for, but I
worked for enough of the same kind of company to know that the
mentality was not necessarily atypical. Manufacturing trade secrets,
of course, were often guarded, and I know that there are perfectly
good reasons for, and a proper place for some of that kind of

I worked for places that stole designs from each other, that were
always fearful about the competitive advantage being lost (or
stolen), and I worked next to people afriad of sharing their
knowledge and abilities with me for the same reasons, and to some
degree I became like that.

This sort of secretive, fearful mentaility carried over into when I
started making pancake dies for people, and I was still
living/working in the same geographical area, doing work for some of
the same people that used to be my employers. This was around the
same time (late 1980’s ) when I went through a lot of personal
upheaval (crash and burn, then arise, Phoenix-like, from my own
ashes), when things were changing, and I remember one day in
particular, 1992-ish, when things changed a lot. It was a phone call
from some guy in California (master blaster Lee Marshall) who had
heard of me and wanted to find out if I was interested in teaching a
class that he would put on at his shop in Santa Cruz. I wasn’t sure
what to think at first, because the old fears kicked in : “what if
someone takes all my ‘secrets’ and takes over my market niche?”,
that kind of thing. I remember telling my mother about it after I
had agreed to go teach, and her first reaction was the exact same
thing, but it was to o late; the seeds of change had already been
planted and were about to growin ways I didn’t imagine at the time.
I’ll skip the novella-sized chapter about my mother issues, except
to add that she was the same mother who encouraged me to stop trying
to make a go of the diemaking thing, before it had taken off. That
book (to borrow from Douglas Adams) should be titled ‘So Long, And
Thanks For All The Fish’.

So I went to California to teach a two-day ; my first experience
teaching anything, one of my first times having to speak
authoritatively in from of other people about anything, and most
importantly, my first real exposure to a world of metalsmithing
artists ouside the very narrow confines that I had allowed myself to
become trapped in. Looking back, it was quite a significant event,
because it helped change the way I viewed myself in the world of
work, and changed how I looked at the community (not that I really
had thought of there being one the way I think of it now) of
metalsmithing artists.

Then, there I was, in the middle of a group of people who were
operating pretty much the from polar opposite of the sort of
mentality that had become second nature to me, and my goodness, what
a relief it was to find out that this was the bigger reality in the
world of craft and artisanry. An ‘outside world’ populated with a
friendly, non-secretive, non-throat-cutting

species that seemed determined to share and expand knowledge freely.
I remember that one of the first big companies in Albuquerque I did
dies for in 1986 actually had the gumption and audacity to try and
get an exclusive on my services; not hire me outright, no, just try
and get me to not do dies for their local competition. That was an
absurd idea even to the old me, the pre-head-out-of-sand me , and
typifies the unfortunate mindset of some people in the industry.

There was another jewelry workshop I remember vaguely from the
earliest of the 1990’s, at someone’s house whose name I should
remember, where I was asked to go give a little die demo at, in
Corrales, NM, and I did another class for Lee, and was glad to
become a cog in the big machine of things. It felt very good and was
rewarding to let goof parts of my old self, and in part of the same
process, disperse parts of my experience to others, if not exactly
free of charge, then at least with the intention and goodwill of a
cooperative spirit and willingness to share knowledge for the
benefit of all. Teaching isn’t really my thing, and I’ve generally
always been too busy working to put much effort in to going around
teaching, and fortunately, since basic pancake chemistry is not
rocket science, there are lots of people here and there who include
the basics in some of their jewelry making classes.

Always, either up front or on a way-back (back to the future)
burner, is the inevitability of writing the Encyclopedia Pancakea,
not just a few Utoob videos or a book done with (read : ‘by’ someone
else) but a real, excruciatingly-detailed immersion into the art of
RT die making, the Foundation (Trilogy ?, no! ) of Flapjackkery, as
it were or will be. There’s no reason to take my ‘secrets’ to the
grave; nobody ‘over there’ would find much use for them, and there
are things I’ve discovered that some people here will find useful
someday. Someday… and it will be about ‘free’ teaching motivated
by the need to contribute to the knowledge base, instead of
withholding because of paranoia.


Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. 

Or that man might just sit in the boat all day drinking beer. That
is if you taught him recreational fishing.

But one of the great things about sharing on Orchid is that you hear
from those who work at jewelry for fun and those who do it for a

Stephen Walker

Andover, NY


Just wanted to say “thank you so much for all you do, I can’t begin
to tell you how much I appreciate it.”


You are so right Beth. May I also express my thanks to Hanuman,
Ton, Charles Lewton-Brain, and all Orchidians who so generously share
their experience, wisdom, and humor!!

Judy in Kansas, who has 24 pints of Roma beans put up for the winter!!

The subject of teaching for free is a very mixed emotional roller
coaster for me. I’ve taught classes starting in high school in the
needle arts (old Scandinavian needle arts) to fellow home ec.
students. Upward bound post college is another teaching experience. I
taught women how to get their lives back together as a social worker.
I taught survival skills to a youth group for several years. None of
which the students paid for, but I was paid by the schools. All were
good experiences.

Then came the time in my life when I was asked to teach when the
student paid me directly. I did this in several areas of expertise.
Notably needle arts again through various shops, college level social
work classes, Photography from this country to several others (really
fun when you don’t speak the same language), To jewelry arts. What I
found was the people taking the classes and paying for them took the
class more seriously. They also tended to respect you. I thought
photographers wee a bunch of whiny self indulged… but it
wasn’t until I was asked to teach a formal program of classes in
jewelry that I met and changed my mind about who could be some of the
worst students. Mind you not all are bad, but it only takes a few to
make things go bad.

When I had been approached it was known I had been paid previously
to teach. Left at that I didn’t ask further. They on the other hand
had always had people teach for free with the notable exception of a
semi famous pair who once in a great while would teach at their
facility and be paid for it. A precedent had been set for paying, but
I was thought of as cheap and free labor a source of free tools. I
had people begging to get into limited space classes. They all filled
up quickly. I was pleased, right up until reality hit. These people
while they begged to be taught, didn’t want to spend the time. They
figured I would teach them what ever they wanted when ever they
decided I should teach them, forget the basics. Then I was told that
spending the nearly 30 hours a week I was teaching, was to be done
totally for free, and all expenses footed by me as well.

I watched after demonstrations were done, the disregard for what I
had just taught. Some of these students felt they knew better, yet
they had in some instances never learned the procedures. I had many
decide not to continue on a set schedule and dropped out of the
classes since they figured they could get the instruction when ever
and maybe even in an advanced class where I would stop and teach them
beginning techniques before teaching the rest advanced techniques. It
was a nightmare. They didn’t want structure, they didn’t want to
learn, and they didn’t want to pay for tools, nor the metals they
were using. I should supply everything. The facility was lacking
tools that were not rusted or suspect to usability. Again this was a

So my experiences are jaded. Yet I do not think that knowledge
should be held only for those who pay. Many here make their living
teaching. I’m in favor of the old apprentice type of learning. I
would readily teach if I knew the people who I was teaching cared
enough to listen and respect my tools until they purchased their own.
I also do not feel it is my responsibility or any teachers
responsibility to pay for the materials the students use. I guess the
ideal in my opinion would be a symbiotic relationship where both
parties gain.

I’ve learned plenty from my students. From the need to see who it is
how I hold my hands and use both hands simultaneously to do a
particular job and pass that bit on as well, to some new tool they
had that I hadn’t seen before. We never stop learning. I applaud
those who want to make sure knowledge is passed on whether through
the writings of how to set gem stones, to how to sharpen drill bits.
I also applaud the teachers who spend their time to teach new
generations how to do the hands on everyday parts of jewelry making.
Our industry is evolving in many different directions. We need both
formal/paid and informal/sharing instructions. There are also
different circumstances for paid and unpaid instruction. If you want
formal instruction from a person who makes their living doing such,
then expect to pay for it. If someone wants to pass on knowledge so
it is not lost, then when you meet them, pass on some of your
experience or buy them a drink and take them to dinner, you know what
I mean. Be thankful for both. I would just like to see students value
what is passed on, in both manners. Also the teacher not be taken
advantage of.

Your interesting post about Free teachings has been bugging me since
it came through last week. So I have re read it a couple of times just
to see why.

Therefore im glad you acknowlege the fact that manufacturing trade
secrets are not “for free” because thats where I agree with your

So what should be for free? in this craft? I ask? It has to be skills
and techniques that are and have been for generations in what I call
" the public domain"

Not every one however good they are at making things has the ability
to re invent the wheel from their own ability. Thats where teaching as
you describe it has its place,because by and large, the traditional
route to this craft via a 7 yr apprenticship no longer exists.

Over the past 25 yrs ive worked with real 3 D dies and associated
tooling and had this question come up many times with clients. If a
client comes to me with a design they thought up and comission the
tooling to make the same, its their copyright and they own the
dies,as they have paid for them. Its more than my reputation is worth
to copy their designs. This kind of metal work is in the public
domain and is not exclusive to me, however their designs and tooling
are not in the public domain. There exclusive to them…

So this brings me to the all important question of manufacturing
trade secrets, and what is exclusive to me. If you have, like
me,pushed the boundaries of ones metal working skills beyond the
public domain, through one efforts to do something thats not been
done before, you would be stupid to just give it away for free. Its
doings something that new or really different that gives you the edge
to survive in the free competitive world we live in. Our real
competitors are not other jewellers, its for example the car makers
and other things people want to spend their money on.

I often get asked how have you done that? The reply is always the
same, Theres a a special magic wand I wave and my fairy godmother
appears and does it for me.

I hope this helps.
Dorset UK.


Thank you sharing your story and for this excellent piece of
critical thinking. You have accurately described a segment of
students and organizations who think the world owes them something.


I am happy to share my limited knowledge here. Because the people on
this webring are genuine.

I have found the best way to advertise my business is to do markets.
I directly interact with hundreds of people in a day for less than
the cost of an advertisement. And I make a profit. People see my work,
buy or place their orders. Everything from $20 easy set cubics to
18ct gold with sapphires.

However, I did a gem setting class for the local gem cutting club. I
asked $25 a head. I drove a round trip of 2 hours. Supplied cheap
cabs plus the metal, torches etc. They all ended up with a piece of
jewellery worth more than $25. Then when it came to collecting the
money they all complained I was too expensive. Guess who does not
teach any skills to the local gem club anymore?

I am continually asked if I teach jewellery making. What they really
mean is “Will you teach me so I can go into competition against
you!” I reply that I will teach you to hand make jewellery, no flexi
shaft skills etc. just honest fabrication and basic gem setting. The
quality of what you make will be high, the speed of production will
be slow. This is not a problem if you want to make gallery level
quality and stand by YOUR designs.

I tell them the set up cost for tools and metal and gems will be
about $1000, you buy your own not ruin mine. I will put you on my
second bench with a standard bench pin, no benchmate etc. I will
charge you $100 a day for 1 on 1 teaching. No takers yet. I don’t
care. They tell me that they can go to class for $4 a session from
the local teacher. Why ask me??? I ask them do you put the lubricant
on the front of the saw blade or the back? On the front they say.
Well that’s what you get for $4. Enjoy. They often show me what they
have made. My teacher would have said “Pull it apart and do it

I do however teach jewellery making to very hard done by high school
kids. Most of these kids are Australian Aborigines, based on socio
economic circumstances not race. I have found these first nation/
hunter gatherer kids have an incredible visual perception very
different from those of European descent. Does anyone out there
notice different visual perception from first nation hunter
gatherers from others. I am a first nation Celt but not a hunter

I provide everything for these kids, and get paid $75 an hour.
Everyone is happy with what I do. We will make a business from these
classes and make money for the kids and the school. This is real

Also I make very high quality ear wires in sterling silver. I am
often asked by competitors if I wholesale them. Of course I do. If
you put in a wholesale quantity order 100 pairs for $200 dollars.
They seem upset I won’t sell less than a wholesale quantity so they
can go into competition against me. I spent years wholesaling to the
trade for a company I worked for, the trade had no problem with
minimum quantities. The hobby people bought from the front of shop
and were happy to buy 1, retail.

Free teaching to those who are willing to invest time and money into
learning is good. Teaching people who want to make a quick buck out
of my skills is a no no.

The point of this post is: free teach those who have a passion for
making jewellery not money out of others skills. I freely share my
knowledge with colleagues but not with competitors.

To all of you who have taken time to reply to my posts online and
offline a very big thank you. Let us progress the skills for those
who are dedicated but less knowledgeable than ourselves.

You can also free teach yourself. Today I set bezel set an Opal
backed with natural potch a rush (first off the bench not racing to
finish) order for a customer, it was an anniversary job, while my
wife painted the ceiling of the show room, she had the worst job. Of
course the customers stone was not well cut, so when the bezel was
down it was uneven. I got to practise my bright cutting skills. With
the graver it previously took 4 hours to prepare. Did I enjoy the
skill challenge, yes. Did I make a profit, yes, but not a lot. Did I
learn something yes. Am I proud of the finished piece yes. Could I do
better next time, of course.


You know, I don’t have any secrets in any skill I have. Ask me
anything and I’ll try to answer. BUT, what happens is that I get
questions like, " I just bought a burner. How do I make jewellery?" “
What do I need to carve labrodite?” etc etc. And then when you spend
the time to answer----nothing. No thanks, no acknowledgment, nothing.
I absolutely detest bad manners like that. And ten questions a day
eats into my time. So, eventually, I made my more complicated
tutorials ones that you pay for. Then I know you are actually
serious. Not just bored on a Sunday afternoon.

Hello Hans,

Your words are well-spoken. That sincere word of thanks means a lot.
Everyone who voices a question and receives answers should exhibit
the good manners to say thank you, at least to the Orchid community
if not to those specific individuals who responded.

I’ll say thanks to Charles Lewton-Brain, Hanuman, and Ton for the
genius to conceive of Orchid and for maintaining it. Thanks also to
those businesses I see on the side bars and page bottom. Their
financial support is so important… not to mention that we can see
additional sources for our needs as jewelers!

Judy in Kansas, where it was nearly a hard freeze last night, but
most of the garden seems pretty OK!

Hello everyone at Ganoksin Mr. Meevis, Mr. Brain all of you if i’ve
seen ungreatful please forgive me i think all of you are priceless
and wonderful thank you for helping me i’m sorry if i didn’t let you
and everyone at Ganoksin thank you love …

Sabra Hardy

Sabra, you have a knack for starting good conversations, thank you. I
have heard many new comers are nervous about posting thinking that
Orchid old timers are on some pedestal of metalsmithing. Just as in
any group of people there are those who have strong opinions and
others who have not lost their sense of wonder and are open to

Charles Lewton-Brain is one of my favorite metalsmiths because he
has so much to share and is able to do so in a manner which is not
from " on high". In fact any of my favorite people still have lots to
learn even about many subjects even if they have practiced for it for
decades. I still learn new things about metalsmithing every day, that
is why I love it so much. If I already knew everything I would get
bored and look for other work.

So please, keep learning, ask questions and I’ll do the same. I
always learn from my students( even if it is not about
metalsmithing), that is one main reason why teaching is rewarding to

Thank you to Orchid, Hanuman and Ton have brought us all together,
for better or worse and I’m inclined to think it has done us all much
good. Sam Patania, Tucson

Mr. Meevis, Mr. Brain all of you if i've seen ungreatful please
forgive me i think all of you are priceless and wonderful thank you
for helping me i'm sorry if i didn't let you and everyone at
Ganoksin thank you love... 

Whoa there, Sabra,

My email was not aimed at you personally at all. Not even remotely.
Just a gerneric whinge at kinda rude people on the net. I promise you
Sabra, you are welcome to ask me anything, and I will try to answer
you. OK, maybe not my bank balance, because that would be
embarrassing. ha ha But anything else is good.